Sullivan had been driving around on a complete mission to find a charger for her laptop. It died and somehow the little plug thingies flicked off. And no more laptop. Since she wasn’t quite ready to be mobile for all her information. She needed her laptop. She was jonesing for her laptop like an opiate victim who ran out of Vicodin.
Sull felt herself being pulled into the dark memories of her mind again. She drove through the North Hills. Battling to stay in the present while the memories of the past were starting to haunt her again.
It was just beginning to be winter in Pittsburgh. We were well into January and still having the occasional fifty to seventy degree days. People cheered for the nice weather during this time. Sulli longed for the days winter started at the end of October. Winter would whisper in on Halloween, beginning of November at the latest. Those were the days, winter wonderlands and white Christmas’s.
‘The Blizzard of ’93’ was the last time Sullivan could remember still feeling like a child. Making snow chairs just by flopping into the snow butt first. It was such a large snow it shut down the whole city. Sulli longed for a day like that. For the snow. For the smell. For a moment everybody stopped and had no where to go. Sulli is stuck in the nostalgia of her memory. Those were the days, the days of sweet bliss and ignorance. 1993 is pretty far back, Sulli started thinking about 2003… then 2004….
It was right around the time Dawn Marie died and Jake had broken up with Sullivan and her whole world was thrown into a tizzy again. Just like that the two people she was closest with blown away with just a small gust of wind. Her bosses words whispered to her again, ‘Everything changes but change itself, Sullivan. Get used to it.’
She was working as a bartender downtown in what was known as the Cultural District. It was a swanky, higher end restaurant called The 7th Street Grille. It wasn’t fine dining but it wasn’t a ‘diner apparel’ restaurant either. During the day everyone wore suits or what was referred to as ‘business casual dress’, whatever the fuck that meant. Sullivan wore all black. From the age of twenty-two until thirty, she wore all black. It was appropriate for work as well as her decade long depression and mania.
At night 7th Street became more social. They weren’t doing business deals over salads and soup. Now it was martinis and filet with Au Poirve sauce. It was all about social class at this point in the evening. You could tell where the folks sat in the fancy theater across the street, by what they ordered on the menu.
Sulli had trained under, Robert, one of the best bartenders in the city, voted two years in a row. She was behind the bar with a spunky, out spoken, tell it like it is, crazy, lovable, red head. Her name was Kerry. She became one of her best friends. Sulli felt pulled towards other red heads. They had a bond. As if their hair color meant forever friendship, and it usually did. Sullivan could rely on the thoughts of her hair follicles more than she could rely on her own clouded judgement.
She met many friends through the years in the service industry. During the days she cares for her father she doesn’t hear from many of them anymore but she still has people like Kerry close to her. They spent many nights washing dirty glasses and laughing at inside jokes together behind the close quarters of the bar on 7th street. She was also in Kerry’s wedding. She married a marine. It was this relationship with Kerry that opened Sullivan’s eyes to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Getting to see a soldier come home from war after a tour of duty. Just a minute ago they were all kids drinking Jager bombs and Yuengling and now this. It made her realize the war her generation was battling, it felt comparable to the viciousness of Vietnam. Kerry was a strong woman and Sullivan loved her for her strength and spunk and ability to drop some witty one liners. As well as take care of a family, a marriage, a marine, tour after tour.
As Sullivan trained to become an accurate, fancy, fun bartender she also trained to drink. She watched as the older gentleman who worked in the theaters come in after a shift and order Makers Mark on the rocks, Stoli and sodas, hold the fruit. The younger theater crowd ordered Grey Goose dirty martinis, French Martinis with Stoli Vanilla, One Eyed Samuri’s with muddled sage and Absolute Pear.
But Sulli became infatuated with studying the older gentleman. She took notes on how they drank, she already knew why they drank. They were snide, snarky, and didn’t accept just anyone into their own personal social circle, you had to be invited. Talking to any of them without an invitation would just garner a dirty look and absolute silence. Sulli liked this about them. She got good at acting like she didn’t care. Just like that, she became just like them.
Sullivan’s favorite gentleman was Kenny, AKA Fish. A nickname that was so common no one knew his real name, because he drank like a fish, he was Fish. Slay me with creativity why don’t you.
Fish enjoyed bottle after bottle of Rolling Rock until the distillery sold to a larger beer company. Once Rolling Rock stopped brewing in the Lancaster area Fish put down the Rolling Rock bottle faster than he dumped his second wife. He was fiercely loyal, twice as stubborn, and completely enamored with Sullivan. He was cranky, cantankerous, and she did admit to herself, he was her favorite that came into the 7th Street Grille.
Over time as Sullivan set down Straub’s beer after beer in front of Fish they got to know each other very well. They spent time having drinks together when her shift was done. She helped him take care of all the football pools he distributed around the theater workers union, as well as other local bars downtown. Sullivan would often tease Fish about getting busted for running his gambling games out from under his Fedora. But he ran the best sports pools including football, horse races, hell, even golf made it’s way into the famous Fish pools.
Fish was Sullivan’s ticket into the boys club. When 7th Street closed he got her a job at Verdetto’s. It was a well liked, privately owned, nostalgic bar in the middle of Northside. Sulli never thought about what would happen to a neighborhood if someone were to build a highway right through the middle of it. But she witnessed it herself when she plopped down for seven years of employment at Verdetto’s, right next to heroin alley and hardscrabble farm.
It would be at Verdetto’s Sulli didn’t engulf herself in drugs or fall in love or even advance her career. But it did provide years of blackouts from too much whiskey and too little sleep. She counted on the old men at her bar to keep money in her pocket daily as she flopped down in her bed every night at 2AM and passed out.
She didn’t need any love, any heartache, any death. She found the bottom of the bottle. But somehow death would find her again. No matter how much she drank.
‘This will fit my computer right?’
‘Sure it’s a universal charger!’ Spunky little twenty something.
Sulli was well on her way home now. She text Fish on her way home, she was fondly remembering their first years together. She laughed about her Dad asking her Did you know Fish had a twenty something girlfriend?!!’
No he did not! Sulli busted a chuckle.
Fish and the bottle. It did fill her up for a while.
And then one night, after another fucking wedding, Sullivan ran into a childhood friend. Megan Yeager. And death found her again.